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September 8, 2013

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Stage fright ends it for Li

A DISAPPOINTED Li Na admitted to an attack of stage fright in her humbling US Open semifinal loss to Serena Williams and said she would have lost to any opponent she faced on Friday.

The first Chinese to reach the last four at Flushing Meadows, a shell-shocked Li crumbled to a 0-6, 3-6 loss in 87 minutes on Arthur Ashe Stadium’s center court in New York.

The 31-year-old has long been accustomed to the glare of the grand slam spotlight, winning a French Open two years ago and reaching her second Australian Open final this year, but was already overwhelmed by the occasion before hitting a ball.

“It’s not about the technique,” Li told reporters. “It’s about the problem with myself. First time in the semis, I was thinking about the situation. Today, it doesn’t matter who the opponent is. The problem is myself.”

Asia’s first grand slam singles winner and a sometimes reluctant standard-bearer for Chinese tennis, the world No. 6 has blown hot and cold throughout her career, her seven WTA singles titles often bookended by wretched form slumps when her confidence deserts her.

“When I walked to the court, I was feeling like the court was so big. My side was feeling like a football court,” she said.

“I cannot focus. In the end, finally I can play tennis.”


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